Here’s the latest bad news coming out of the horrid COVID-19 pandemic: Black Americans have lost nearly three years of life expectancy due to the disproportionate impact the virus has had on our communities, along with other factors.
The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), revealed the sobering information on Thursday in a release of data it captured in the first six months of 2020, reports the Washington Post.
The overall life expectancy of the entire U.S. population has diminished, down a year from where it stood in 2019. When the numbers are broken down though, the situation is even more dire for people of color. While white Americans’ life expectancy went down by 0.8 years, Latinos lost 1.9, and Black people lost more expected time off their life span—2.7 years—than any other group included in the data.
From the Washington Post:
Overall, the NCHS data shows, life expectancy at birth for the entire U.S. population in the first half of 2020 was 77.8 years. For Black Americans, it was 72, for Latinos 79.9, and for Whites 78. As has long been the case, women could expect to live longer — 80.5 years, compared with 75.1 for men. The NCHS did not include figures for Asian Americans or other racial groups.
With the United States approaching 500,000 deaths from the pandemic alone, experts were not surprised by the new data. But they said the size of the reduction in life expectancy, particularly for Black and Latino Americans, was greater than expected.
“This is a big departure. We haven’t seen anything this large since the first half of the 20th century, when infectious disease was much more common,” said Elizabeth Arias, a health scientist for the NCHS and lead author of the paper.
The difference between White and minority drops in life expectancy caused the most alarm.
“Those are very large disparities, and it reflects that the pandemic affected these two minority groups much more than the majority population,” Arias said. “So they experienced the bulk of the mortality.”
While the impact of the pandemic certainly contributed to the big drop in life expectancy—the sharpest since World War II, according to the researchers—other rising crises in 2020 attributed to the phenomenon. These include a spike in overdose deaths and fatalities from heart attacks, strokes and other diseases.
The data released by NCHS represents life expectancy at birth, a statistic that marks America’s health by capturing how long a newborn can be expected to live if the mortality patterns in the year under consideration continue for the rest of their life. As such, the hopeful end of the coronavirus pandemic should positively impact the figures, but that’s a cold guarantee for a community that already lagged behind other groups in life expectancy—in part due to the disproportionate presence of diseases like hypertension and diabetes in Black Americans. Then there are the disparities in health access that have long been experienced by Black people in the U.S. and were sharpened by the limitations of the pandemic.
“The issue you have is not just the Covid, but the medical system fallout from the Covid,” Dr. Dominick Mack of the Morehouse School of Medicine told the New York Times. “Once that’s corrected, the population still has chronic diseases that probably festered during this time, went untreated.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some good news.